Boat rugs. How do you go about choosing rugs for the boat?
Don’t worry, I’m not an interior designer so I’m not going to discuss designs. Well, not much.
But I can give a few things to look for . . . and a few others to stay away from.
Desirable Features in Boat Rugs
The basic problem is that it’s almost impossible to find all the “desired features” in one rug. So you have to decide what’s most important to you. Here are a few for you to consider.
- Non-slip. This is really a must-have as slipping rugs = falls = injuries and broken bones. You can buy rubber-backed rugs or use a rubber non-slip mat (or even some double-sided tape) under a “regular” rug. In either case, the rubber can stick to the floor below. Usually a bit of scrubbing with something like a Scrubr dish rag (read my article on these; buy on Amazon) will remove it. For tape residue, WD40 works well but be sure to wash the area well afterwards. The varnish on my floors is far from perfect so that works for me. But those with perfect high-gloss floors may want to think twice before putting any rugs down. I don’t know of any way to keep rugs from moving without occasionally having something stick to the floor.
- Washable. You will need to wash any boat rug periodically. How often depends on your activities. But salt water, sand, galley spills and even drops of used motor oil will probably make their way onto your rugs. Washing is hard on rubber-backed rugs (the rubber will start to flake off). But you can help them out by washing in cool or warm water (not hot) and drying on low (or air-drying).
- Stain-masking. Boat rugs just do pick up stains – wine, spaghetti sauce, motor oil, dog puke, we’ve had them all. I’ve learned that colorful irregular patterns don’t show stains nearly as much as solid colors or small repeating patterns. (This is my one design point.)
- Long-lasting. Unfortunately, the rubber on rubber-backed rugs will start peeling off after anywhere from 6 to 18 months. This time period is shorter in tropical weather, hard use and/or lots of washes . . . compounded by original quality. Backing on other rugs will typically last 1 to 2 years, but generally you can’t wash them. When the flaking gets too bad, it will put a lot of gunk onto the floor. From there it goes into the bilge and potentially even clogs bilge pumps. So you need to watch for this and replace the rugs before there’s a problem. Rag rugs are good as you can wash them and there’s no rubber to start peeling off. But you have to have a separate non-slip pad. And rag rugs can be hard to find in sizes and shapes that work on boats and you can’t cut them to fit.
- Size. On some boats – such as ours – this is the big one. There just aren’t a lot of rugs that will fit our boat. Depending on where you’re using them, sometimes you can get a larger rug and cut it to size IF the cut edges will be in an area without a lot of traffic (they’ll ravel otherwise). Cut edges also preclude washing a rug. Unless you can put a binding on the cut edge it will fray in the wash. If you have an odd size, look at things such as bath mats too. That’s what I ended up using just inside Barefoot Gal’s door. It’s a long loop terry with a non-slip mat under it. Since that’s the “inside rug” that gets most of the dirt, it works well. It’s easy to shake out daily and washes beautifully.
- Price. Prices range from a few dollars at the discount store to several hundred for truly luxury carpets custom fit for your boat. Our first cruising boat, Que Tal, came with a custom rug that previous owners had purchased. It was beautiful and I’m sure cost a mint. In less than two years (about four years from when they put it on the boat) we had to replace it. The back was disintegrating and falling into the bilge. The bottom line is that spending a lot more on a rug does not mean it will last a lot longer, particularly in the tropics. The only rugs that I could find to fit Barefoot Gal had rubber backing. So I assume I’ll have to replace them in a year and decided on a “max price” with that in mind.
Buying Boat Rugs
Where to buy rugs? Over the years on our two boats, I’ve bought them just about everywhere. Last fall I got very cheap ones at Dollar General. We were working on the boat at the time and I knew we’d stain them almost instantly. They lasted 7 months and weren’t very pretty but they weren’t ugly either.
Needing to replace them when we moved back aboard after selling the house, I decided I wanted something a little higher quality and also a little better looking. Size became the key factor in deciding on what I wanted. Price came second (I could find a number of rugs that were the right size but extremely expensive). There was also the fact that I wanted washable and a stain-hiding pattern. I finally some that I liked on Amazon (see here). But it took quite a bit of searching as the sizes were not indexed well.
Our boat upholstery is a solid beige with wood floors and accent pieces and lots of off-white gel coat. In other words, very neutral. I wanted something light, bright, and colorful. And since I figure I’ll have to get new rugs in a year or so, I didn’t worry too much about whether it was a design I’d love “forever.”